Home Vancouver Events Calendar Festivals and Events in Vancouver in 2024 Vancouver’s DTES Heart of the City Festival

Vancouver’s DTES Heart of the City Festival

Heart of the City Festival

Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival celebrates the area’s art, history, culture and people through live theatre, music, workshops and more.

In 2023 the festival ran from October 25th until November 5th. It featured over 100 events in 12 days. Some of the events were ticketed while others were free. 2024 festival details are to be confirmed.


This article contains the following information about the Heart of the City Festival:

Dates and Locations | Festival Activities | 2023 Events Schedule | About the FestivalOther Information


Click Heart of the City Festival for the event’s official website.


DTES Heart of the City Festival

The annual Heart of the City Festival shares traditions, art forms and stories about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Local organizations partner with the festival and help organize events such as readings, musical performances, galleries, talks and celebrations.

The theme in 2023 was “Grounded in Community, Carrying it Forward.” This was a special year as it was the 20th anniversary of the festival and the 40th anniversary of Vancouver Moving Theatre which is one of the lead organizers of the festival.

Vancouver Moving Theatre presented the festival in partnership with the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians, the Carnegie Community Centre, and several other community partners.


Festival Dates and Locations

All events are typically held throughout Vancouver’s DTES. In 2020, because of the coronavirus pandemic, most (but not all) activities happened online.

In the years since then the festival has had a mix of in-person and online events. 2023 was no different. Most of the events were in person but there were some that were online-only too. 2024 will likely be similar, although exact details are to be confirmed.


Click Heart of the City Festival for the event’s official website.


Homeless Project Musicians
Homeless Project


Festival Activities

There are usually multiple events taking place each day, many of which are free or by donation. Events include music, theatre, poetry, film, dance, multimedia, visual arts, history walks, workshops and panel discussions.


2023 Events

Below were some of the many events scheduled for the 2023 festival. Exact details were subject to change. For more information, including info about other events from last year, see the DTES Heart of the City Festival‘s website.


The Homeless Project

Thursday, October 26th, 2023

  • A multimedia event that featured the works of 10 different musicians, photographers, filmmakers and other people from Vancouver, all led by guitarist and composer Tony Wilson. Admission was free.
  • The event started at 7:30 pm at Carnegie Community Centre Theatre at 401 Main Street.


Famous Last Words

Friday, October 27th, 2023

  • Dina Del Bucchia, Elliot Slinn, Hari Alluri, RC Weslowski and Marie Metaphor competed in funny games to impress both the judge and audience. Tickets were pay what you could. They were available online for free or between $5 and $15 each.
  • This performance kicked off at 7:00 pm at SFU Woodwards at 149 West Hastings Street in Gastown.


Battle of Ballantyne Pier

Friday, October 27th, and Saturday, October 28th, 2023

  • A new musical written by playwright Sherry MacDonald about the longshore workers strike in 1935. Other songwriters included Thomas Jones and Russell Wallace. Tickets were on a sliding scale of $0 to $20 each.
  • Started at 7:00 pm and took place at the Maritime Labour Centre at 1880 Triumph Street.


See the Heart of the City Festival‘s website for full details about last year’s series of events.


DTES Heart of the City (Photos by David Cooper)


Spontaneous Street Poetry

Friday, October 27th, to Sunday, October 29th, 2023

  • Gilles Cyrenne and Laureate Fiona Tinwei Lam hosted responsive writing outdoors for three days. The event was free and open to the public.
  • Took place outside the Carnegie Community Centre at 401 Main Street and kicked off at 1:00 pm.


Cultural Tributaries Building Tour

Sunday, October 29th, 2023

  • Orville Lim led guests through a historic building in Chinatown. There were also presentations by David Ng and Johnny Sopotiuk, plus a performance of Drum Mother by Terry Hunter. General admission cost $20 each, but discounted and free tickets were also available for folks who couldn’t afford to pay.
  • The event started at 11:00 am and took place at the Lim Sai Hor Kow Mock Association Building at 525 Carrall Street in Chinatown.


Bright Futures Exhibition Tour

Sunday, October 29th, 2023

  • Aliya Boubard walked guests through the Bright Futures exhibition at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art. There were more than 12 artists to learn about and admission was free.
  • The event was held at the Bill Reid Gallery at 639 Hornby Street and started at 3:00 pm.


Paper Trail Exhibition Tour

Wednesday, November 1st, 2023

  • Two tours of an exhibit at the Chinese Canadian Museum led by Elwin Xie. The Paper Trail to the 1923 Chinese Exclusion Act featured identity documents of Chinese Canadians from a time of contested terrain. The tours ran for one hour each and were free to attend. Registration was required.
  • Tours started at 11:00 am and 1:00 pm at the Chinese Canadian Museum, located at 51 East Pender Street.


9th Symposium on Reconciliation & Redress in the Arts

Thursday, November 2nd, 2023

  • A culture deep-dive that featured a panel of Indigenous leaders. There was also a meet and greet, and lunch was provided. Tickets were free for Coast Salish People and residents of the DTES community. Admission for everyone else ranged from about $25 to $100 each.
  • The event started at 10:00 am and took place at the Creekside Community Recreation Centre at 1 Athletes Way in Olympic Village.


Click Heart of the City Festival for the event’s official website.


Heart of the City (Photos by David Cooper)
Heart of the City (Photos by David Cooper)


Etuaptmunk/Two-Eyed Seeing: Ways of Being and Seeing

Thursday, November 2nd, to Sunday, November 5th, 2023

  • A series of cultural gatherings about humans and the environmental destruction of our planet. The events were guided by Indigenous principles. Tickets for each gathering cost $15 in advance. Unless sold out, tickets were also available at the door by donation. There was also a workshop on the last day all about climate change.
  • All activities took place at the Firehall Arts Centre, located at 280 East Cordova Street. The gatherings happened at 7:30 pm on November 2nd and 3rd, followed by 3:00 pm and 7:00 pm on November 4th. The workshop took place on November 5th at 11:00 am.


Open House at the Vancouver Police Museum

Friday, November 3rd, 2023

  • The Vancouver Police Museum had an open house with free admission. It was a great opportunity to learn about Vancouver’s history and some of its most famous criminal cases. There were special activities on offer, plus small tours at noon, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm.
  • The open house ran from 11:00 am until 5:00 pm at 240 East Cordova.


Reweaving our Words

Friday, November 3rd, 2023

  • An exploration of weaving techniques that featured hands-on activities with wool, plant fibres and more. There was also music and food to enjoy. Admission was free.
  • This activity started at 1:00 pm and took place at Trillium Park at 600 National Avenue.


Once Upon a Time on a Chinatown Night

Friday, November 3rd, 2023

  • A Son of James production with Vancouver Moving Theatre about Shon Wong and his journey for purpose and family. Admission cost about $30 per person.
  • The performance started at 7:30 pm on the second floor of STRETCH Studio at 180 East Pender Street.


Stop the Sweeps

Saturday, November 4th, 2023

  • A documentary by Ryan Sudds about the decampments of people in the Downtown Eastside and the ongoing resistance to neglect and violence. The screening was free to attend.
  • The documentary was shown at 3:30 pm at the Carnegie Community Centre Theatre at 401 Main Street.


In addition to the above, there were many other events worth checking out. For more details regarding each event, visit the Heart of the City Festival website.


About the Festival

The DTES Heart of the City Festival is presented by the Vancouver Moving Theatre. In a typical year the event includes 100 or more events at as many as 40 or so different locations.

Vancouver Moving Theatre is a community-engaged arts organization that is based in the city’s Downtown Eastside. It creates original productions including Bah Humbug! which was an annual Christmas play that raised funds for the DTES Heart of the City Festival up until 2019.

The DTES is one of Vancouver’s oldest neighbourhoods, rich in culture and heritage, and the historic heart of the city.


Click Heart of the City Festival for the event’s official website.


Day Of the Dead Altar Video

November 2nd is known as the Day of the Dead in Mexico. It’s kind of like Halloween, but where Mexicans celebrate the return of departed souls. It’s not a scary day (even though some of its decorations look kind of scary). The occasion is commemorated with Day of the Dead altars, which are called “Altars de los Muertos” in Spanish. People also dress up as “Catrinas” in skull-like makeup and skeleton costumes.

The video below is of a Day of the Dead Altar in downtown Vancouver during the Heart of the City Festival in 2020. Interestingly, the DTES festival coincided with Latin American Heritage Month which was celebrated in Vancouver from October 14th until November 2nd in 2021.



Other Information

For the most up-to-date information regarding the DTES festival see the Heart of the City Festival website.

Other articles that might be of interest include the following:

Note: Photos in this article (including the ones at the top of this page but not any with the Vancouver’s Best Places logo), are by David Cooper.